Funtography

These photographers still use the Game Boy Camera with incredible results

Despite phones having incredible cameras, these five photographers are choosing to go low-res and old school with Nintendo's 23-year-old Game Boy Camera.

Herr Hatacke

Back in 1998...

We take photography for granted now that there's a pretty darn good camera in our phones. But back in the '90s digital cameras were still a novelty. Nintendo released the Game Boy Camera in 1998 and it was discontinued in 2002. Twenty-something years later, enthusiasts and gamers alike are dusting the Game Boy Camera off and even enhancing its capabilities with DIY mods.

🎥: Nintendo

You're probably wondering why anyone would use a 23-year-old toy camera that's only capable of producing grayscale photos with 2-bit resolution (128 x 112) and 4-color palette options.

📸: Herr Zatacke

Even budget phone cameras can take better photos than the Game Boy Camera. But like shooting film or Polaroids, the Game Boy Camera's sprite image quality, technological limitations, and nostalgia are what makes it so appealing.

Tim Binnion

We asked five Game Boy Camera photographers why they're choosing to shoot with the ancient toy in 2021. Unsurprisingly, the camera's limitations are part of the fun and challenge.

(Fun fact: The Game Boy Camera software was co-developed by Game Freak, the developers behind Pokémon.)

Instagram user "8bitMKE," says he started shooting with a Game Boy Camera back in 2015 and it was only when he was able to figure out how to transfer the photos to his laptop when things took off.

8bitMKE

“I love its quirks and I am beyond blown away by the features (timelapse, trick lenses, photo editing, mini games, music programmer). I love the aesthetic. It's been described as digital dirt, but it makes you pause a second to figure out what the image really is.”

8bitMKE

“I also just love the limitations (quality, only being able to hold 30 images at a time) and how that makes me be a more thoughtful photographer in the age of everyone carrying seriously impressive camera hardware with them in their pocket.”

8bitMKE

8bitMKE

8bitMKE also shouts out the massive Game Boy Camera scene as another reason that keeps him engaged. “I've met incredibly talented shooters, insanely knowledgable people who push the GBC to its limits, and I've also been able to connect more with the local art, music, photog scene here in Milwaukee.”

8bitMKE

Jean-Jacques Calbayrac, better known on Instagram as @gameboycameraman has amassed one of the largest accounts for Game Boy Camera photography. With over 6,600 followers, he's even been profiled by Instagram on his unorthodox camera and photography decisions.

“It turns the picture into a puzzle — an enigma in a way. There is this filter between you and the subject, and even if the picture is obvious most of the time, you can still see something different that is shown to you.”

@gameboycameraman

@gameboycameraman

“Because of the lack of details, you’re going to see a version of something you want to see, and it makes it a bit more personal, about your experience, and in the end it turns it into a bit of a game.”

@gameboycameraman

@gameboycameraman

Jean-Jacques, who is based in London and originally from Monaco, says he started shooting with the Game Boy Camera in 2013. But it wasn't until 2016 when he posted his photos to Instagram that things started heating up.

@gameboycameraman

“We need to let go of the details and get back to the shape. The functions of this camera are so limited that it is like a journey in time in the history of photography. We are going back to the birth of digital photography.”

Instagram profile of Jean-Jacques

@gameboycameraman

Andreas Gack aka Herr Zatacke on Instagram is a front-end developer who started toying with a Game Boy Camera in 2019 after a colleague gifted him the 23-year-old accessory.

Gack says he found Brian Khuu's Arduino Library that emulated the Game Boy Printer and with the lockdown in Germany last year, he wanted a project to work on. He ended up improving on the Printer emulator tool and even added a Wi-Fi feature.

Herr Hatacke

“The fun working with the camera mostly comes from the restriction it has. Like the four gray tones, the low resolution, and no real way to control the exposure and the fixed focus. All these give the images a distinct and recognizable style but still enough freedom to be creative.”

Herr Zatacke

Colorized

Gack's specialty is colorizing grayscale Game Boy Camera photos. He achieves his results with various methods.

Herr Zatacke

“One thing I like to do is take pictures and then later try to 'develop' the image by creating a color-palette which either matches the real pictured object or exaggerates the scene in some other way. I started to design a mechanical adapter to change color-filters.”

Herr Zatacke

Herr Hatacke
A colorized photo taken with a heavily modified Game Boy Camera with CCTV lens.📸: Herr Zatacke

One of his more ambitious Game Boy Camera ideas: 3D printing the low-res photos into physical pictures.

Another project that shows his commitment to his hobby involves creating lens mount adapters. He's got several adapters for attaching Canon lenses as well as adapters for smaller CCTV lenses that he says "fit the size of the sensor much better."

Herr Zatacke
The custom CCTV lens adapter for the Game Boy Camera.📸: Herr Zatacke
Look at that little guy. It's so cute.📸: Herr Zatacke
A Game Boy with a Canon lens adapter.📸: Herr Zatacke

Björn, who goes by @gameboycameramaniac, is a shooter and tinkerer. His website's got a trove of info on how to colorize Game Boy Camera pics, transfer images to a computer, decode them, and more.

@gameboycameramaniac

“I bought a Game Boy Camera out of curiosity. It is so terribly limited that you have to take a completely different approach. You can't just point and shoot. You really have to look for contrast and textures.”

@gameboycameramaniac

@gameboycameramaniac

Since he started shooting last spring, he has become quite proactive with his hobby.

“I joined the game boy camera discord, where a lot of great projects were started. It all came together. Retro hardware, photography, Arduino, soldering, programming.”

@gameboycameramaniac

@gameboycameramaniac

Chris Graves or @thegameboycamera (fun fact: he's the lucky owner of gameboycamera.com) is another prolific Game Boy Camera photographer on Instagram and around the community.

Chris Graves

Based in the midwest, he's been using his Game Boy Camera to document America's backyard since 2018. Graves told Input he owns several Game Boys and brings along several Game Boy Cameras units with him to shoot. Each Game Boy Camera can only save 30 photos so having multiple cartridges on hand is essential. It's sort of like shooting with film.

Chris Graves

“I don't really consider myself a photographer. I don't know a whole lot about photography. This is kind of the deepest I've ever really gotten into it.”

Chris Graves

Chris Graves

“The Game Boy is more for when I want to be artistic or creative. I want to be creative with this shot and I want to do something that's interesting and unique whereas my phone I'm usually taking the photo just to capture the moment.”

Chris Graves

Chris Graves

Graves also is known in the community for his impressive Game Boy Camera mods. For example, this one is a custom hand-made Game Boy Camera with a lens adapter attached to a Game Boy Advance. He also added a wooden grip for added comfort, a lithium-ion battery that charges via USB-C (yes!), and a shutter button. It's cool as hell.

Chris Graves
The view from the back is even more impressive.📸: Chris Graves

Asked he'll if ever lose interest in Game Boy Camera photography, Graves says “I don't think I'll ever get out of it. It's something unique and creative and it's itching that creative streak in me.”

Chris Graves